There are a number of examples of applications initially developed as “assistive” technology that have entered the mainstream. If you carry a smartphone, perhaps you use a number of these, such as speech-to-text or haptic indicators such as vibrating ring tones. These technologies were originally developed to help people with limited motor skills or hearing to communicate more easily.
Now, a wearable camera — using technology initially designed to help people with Alzheimer’s or other severe memory problems to boost their recollection of everyday events — has entered mainstream tech, as well.
The Autographer is a wearable camera designed by London-based Chauhan Studio. It will be marketed by OMG Life, a consumer product division of OMG (Oxford Metrics Group), which makes a range of video capture products. OMG also made the Vicon Revue, a camera used for memory assistance. The Vicon and the Autographer both use SenseCam technology, developed by Microsoft.
Microsoft Research first experimented with this idea of having a person with severe memory problems wear a camera that passively takes photographs in 2005. It issued such a camera to a person who suffered amnesia thanks to a brain infection. This person wore the camera to special events that she wanted to be able to remember, and then she would review the many images that the camera captured, over and over, and she was able to retain 80 percent of the memories of the events — even months after the events happened — by reviewing the images.
It has since been used for many different people, including those suffering from dementia and traumatic brain injuries, with good success. Having the device and reviewing the images lowers anxiety and aids memory more than other tools, such as keeping a written journal, according to Microsoft.
The Autographer camera, like the Vicon Revue, contains many different sensors, including GPS, light, temperature and motion sensors. It snaps pictures often, triggered to do so when location or other environmental factors change, and then piles up these images for download later. While reviewing the images, the user gets a really quick diary of bits of the day, all taken from his or her point of view, since the camera is meant to be worn on the body, facing forward (but I would totally wear this behind me, facing backwards, to see what that looks like).
The Autographer is basically a smaller, more design-ish version of the Vicon Revue, as far as I can tell. It can be hung on a lanyard or snapped to clothing with a magnet.
According to Verge, the Autographer can be used in conjunction with Apple’s mobile software iOS and one can create animated GIFs with the images collected. How this device — or more importantly, the images — will be used by the general consuming public is yet to be known.
It will be available starting in November for £399.
What do you think? Could this technology be a huge boon for new ways of seeing the world? Or is it just another digital distraction?
Images: OMG Life